Posts Tagged ‘Laura Barrett’

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

I Never Woke Up

Review of Snailhouse’s Sentimental Gentleman

Photo By Anneke HymmenAnneke HymmenMontrealer Mike Feuerstack isn’t anything resembling a household name but if you’ve got records from Belle Orchestre, Angela Desveaux or The Wooden Stars in your collection – and you probably should – then you’ve got his name in your liner notes. But if not, then you probably don’t have anything from his solo project Snailhouse and that’s a shame – but one you can easily rectify with his new album Sentimental Gentleman when it’s released on May 24.

In his other bands, it’s his virtuoso musicianship that’s on display but with Snailhouse, his songwriting chops take centre stage. There’s still plenty of tasty guitarwork throughout, but it’s largely of the laid back variety as it’s in support of his gently rootsy tunes. Thoughtful and introspective, it’s not the sort of record that attracts your attention with frantic arm waving, but an easy demeanour and welcoming smile. And while there’s plenty other shinier and more immediate roadside attractions on the musical landscape, those who take the time to investigate Snailhouse’s low-key charms will be rewarded with a thoughtful and understatedly witty collection of songs that won’t necessarily change your life, but will certainly make it more pleasant for a half hour or so, and moreso with each visit.

Exclaim is currently streaming the whole of Sentimental Gentleman. Snailhouse is just wrapping a tour of Europe and will kick off a North American leg next week with a date at Toronto’s Dakota Tavern on May 26.

MP3: Snailhouse – “I Never Woke Up”
MP3: Snailhouse – “Sentimental Gentleman”
Stream: Snailhouse / Sentimental Gentleman

Joel Plaskett has announced the released of a rarities compilation entitled EMERGENCYs, false alarms, shipwrecks, castaways, fragile creatures, special features, demons and demonstrations, due to hit stores on June 14 – Chart has details and as a teaser, here’s one of the tracks from it. Plaskett will play a free show June 10 at Metro Square as part of the LuminaTO festival.

MP3: Joel Plaskett – “When I Go”

The release this week of Diaper Island, the latest from Calgary’s Chad Vangaalen, has brought the media a-calling. Check out features at The Globe & Mail, NXEW, Paste, The Calgary Herald and Exclaim. Van Gaalen headlines The Great Hall on June 18 for NXNE and a new MP3 and video from the album have just been released.

MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Peace On The Rise”
Video: Chad Van Gaalen – “Peace On the Rise”

Austra is getting similar attention for her just-released debut Feel It Break. There’s interviews at NOW,, Resonancity, Clash, and Chart. Austra has a sold-out show at Lee’s Palace tonight.

Timber Timbre have released a new video from Creep On Creepin’ On.

Video: Timber Timbre – “Black Water”

Also with a new video – Montreal’s No Joy, from their debut Ghost Blonde. Their NXNE showcase is June 17 at The Horseshoe.

Video: No Joy – “Maggie Says I Love You”

Little Scream gets in on the “hey I have a new video” meme with one from The Golden Record. has an interview with the artist, who plays The Mod Club on June 14 opening up for The Antlers.

Video: Little Scream – “Red Hunting Jacket”

And from The Wilderness Of Manitoba is a new clip from When You Left The Fire.

Video: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “Orono Park”

Great Lake Swimmers’ Spinner about his contributions to The National Parks Project, the documentary film which pairs Canadian musicians with Canada’s national parks. A release show for the soundtrack, featuring many of the artists who contributed, happens tonight at The Royal – tickets are $15. Here’s one of the performances from the film, featuring Cadence Weapon, Woodpigeon’s Mark Hamilton and Laura Barrett in a teepee in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. Click through to video number four. Also check out interviews with the film’s directors at NOW and Torontoist.

Video: Laura Barrett, Cadence Weapon, Mark Hamilton – “The Humble Fawn”

And similar-sounding but not at all related is The Parks Canada Experience, which is notable because a) it’s funded by our tax dollars and b) it will be throwing a party at the foot of the CN Tower this Saturday, May 21, which will feature free performances from Malajube and Apostle Of Hustle, amongst others. It runs from 11AM to 7PM. For more specifics on the what and the when… I don’t know, contact your local MP.

MP3: Malajube – “Synesthesie”
MP3: Apostle Of Hustle – “Perfect Fit”

I’ve been waiting ages for a Kathryn Calder live date in support of her excellent solo debut Are You My Mother and when one is finally announced – it’s in conflict with not one but two other must-see shows. Which is to say that when she’s playing The Tranzac’s Southern Cross Lounge on June 10, I will be at Okkervil River at The Phoenix having already given up seeing Weeping Tile at Lee’s Palace. Life is so unfair.

MP3: Kathryn Calder – “Arrow”
MP3: Kathryn Calder – “Slip Away”

Fucked Up have been added to the NXNE lineup with two shows on June 16 – one free engagement at Yonge-Dundas Square early that evening and another late-nighter at Wrongbar. They’re also opening for Foo Fighters at The Air Canada Centre on August 9. David Comes To Life is out June 7.

MP3: Fucked Up – “Ship Of Fools”

Also added to the NXNE lineup, despite having just announced their own August 1 show at The Horseshoe, is Handsome Furs. They will preview new record Sound Kapital at The Garrison at 1AM on June 18.

MP3: Handsome Furs – “Radio Kaliningrad”

And in addition to his set at Yonge-Dundas Square on June 17, Diamond Rings will be at Wrongbar at midnight on June 18. This, of course, is all in addition to his set opening up (again) for Robyn on June 3 at Echo Beach.

MP3: Diamond Rings – “Something Else”

Diamond Rings has also started up a remix series wherein he’ll release a new remix each Tuesday leading up to the June 21 US major label reissue of his album Special Affections. The first entry is a track from Miracle Fortress, whose own Was I The Wave? just came out Stateside this week – there’s a new MP3 from it available to download to mark the occasion. Spinner talks turkey with Graham Van Pelt.

MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Miscalculations”
MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Raw Spectacle” (Diamond Rings remix)

Sloan’s 20th anniversary video back-pat series rolls on, now including installments for “Underwhelmed medley”, “Your Favourite Sloan Lyric”, a rendering of “People Of The Sky” by Owen Pallett and “Sloan’s influence”. Sloan play The Mod Club on June 22.

Rolling Stone is streaming an unreleased Neil Young song circa the mid-80s, due to appear on the Archives release A Treasure, out June 14.

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

That's When The Ceremony Starts

The Hidden Cameras lead off Summerworks 2010 lineup

Photo via FacebookFacebookSummerworks has long been an established name in Toronto’s theatrical community, staging successful festivals every Summer (hence the name) for as long as I’ve lived here, but in the last couple of years, they’ve been expanding their mandate with a musical series that has aimed to get theatre fans to to discover some of the city’s best up-and-coming independent music and vice versa. Each year has gotten better and better, and the just-announced 2010 music series is handily continuing that trend.

As previously mentioned, the main attraction this year is a two-night stand from The Hidden Cameras wherein they’ll reimagine their last record Origin:Orphan in a theatrical context, but also appearing at the Lower Ossington Theatre from August 5th through the 14th will be Ghost Bees, Diamond Rings, Laura Barrett, Snowblink, Evening Hymns and The Wilderness Of Manitoba, amongst many others.

The performance space is divided into a mainstage and a performance bar; tickets for the former are available in advance at Rotate This, Soundscapes and the venue box office while admission for the latter is pay-what-you-can on the evening of the show, with mainstage ticket holders getting in for free. Check out the schedule to see who’s playing where and when.

MP3: The Hidden Cameras – “Walk On”
MP3: Laura Barrett – “Decepticon Island Optimists Club”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “Wait And See”
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Broken Rifle”
MP3: Ghost Bees – “Vampires Of The West Coast”
MP3: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “Hermit”

Domino Records is offering a download of Owen Pallett’s new Lewis Takes His Shirt Off EP for one week only. And that week started a couple days ago, so get moving. And speaking of getting moving, it was just announced that Pallett will be appearing at the Dakota Tavern tonight as part of White Whale Wendesdays this month, playing with Snailhouse, Octoberman and Tusks.

Hannah Georgas has released a new video from This is Good. She plays the Molson Amphitheatre on July 30 as part of the dog’s breakfast Disco Lemonade show.

Video: Hannah Georgas – “Bang Bang You’re Dead”

Spinner talks to Rolf Klausener of The Acorn about their new record No Ghost.

The Coast have announced their second album Queen Cities will be out on September 14, and they’ll play a hometown record release show at the El Mocambo on September 23.

Metric turned in a compact, two-song set for Daytrotter. Maybe they were in a hurry to make this interview with The Riverfront Times?

Paste catches up with Stars; they’re at Massey Hall on October 23.

Billboard has posted their cover story on Arcade Fire. They play the Toronto Islands on August 14.

The Boston Herald and Beatroute have features on Wolf Parade

Gord Downie & The Country Of Miracles will bring The Grand Bounce to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on November 5.

Video: Gord Downie & The Country Of Miracles – “The East Wind”

BeatRoute, The Montreal Gazette and The National Post talk to Sarah Harmer.

Indie rock endorsements: Liz Powell of Land Of Talk tells The Sound It Resounds why Fugazi’s In On The Kill Taker was so important to her while over at Rock Torch, Dan Mangan recommends some time spent with Bon Iver.

Both Acts Of Minor Treason and Comics Alliance take photo tours of Scott Pilgrim’s Toronto. The Beguiling is hosting a release party for Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour next Monday night, with the books going on sale at midnight, while Scott Pilgrim Vs The World opens in theatres on August 13.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010


The Magnetic Fields and Laura Barrett at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIf I’m being totally honest, I wasn’t that excited for last night’s Magnetic Fields show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. After all, their last few records didn’t especially bowl me over and I was feeling somewhat pessimistic about what to expect from a performer who’s very much on record as being disdainful of the entire phenomenon of live performance.

I had seen them before at their last visit to Toronto in July 2004 and while my memories of that show are fond, I couldn’t say it was an especially overwhelming performance. But some classic album cramming over the last few days including a 69 Love Songs marathon Sunday night was definitely putting me the right frame of mind. A chance to hear even a few of these songs live for the first time in over half a decade wasn’t to be missed, even if some degree of disappointment was to to be expected.

Or not.

Toronto’s own Laura Barrett had gotten the nod to open up the North American tour, and so as a former bandmate from way back in the day, I couldn’t help but feel super-proud of her for the achievement. And even more so upon hearing just how good she and her band sounded onstage, not a bit out of place in such a large and formal setting. No longer just a quirky girl with a kalimba, Barrett’s set was impressively confident and full-sounding, with well-arranged violin, banjo, glockenspiel and flute enriching her decidedly odd yet wholly accessible songs, and I was especially surprised at how strong and expressive her vocals have gotten. The warm reception she received was based on far more than just cheering for the home team. To co-opt her joke about it rhyming with her name, it was pure merit.

From the very first song of The Magnetic Fields’ set, I knew that my fears for the evening were going to be completely out of place. Rather than a number from their latest effort Realism or reaching back into their extensive repertoire for a crowd-pleaser, Stephin Merritt and company went sideways in their catalog to the second 6ths effort Hyacinths & Thistles and “Lindy-Lou”. No sir, this was not going to be a typical night. The expected Magnetic Fields lineup of Merritt, John Woo, Sam Davol and Claudia Gonson were in place, seated in a semi-circle, but also on the tour was Shirley Simms, who was a major presence on 69 Love Songs and subsequent records. She would take lead on a number of tracks as well as providing wonderful harmonies on others, also helping compensate a bit for Gonson, who battled through a case of laryngitis to deliver her own numbers. And if Merritt wasn’t enjoying touring, he was hiding it well. Though typically deadpan in his stage banter, he definitely seemed to be in a better mood than on their last visit – he cracked more than the requisite amount of jokes, playfully bantered with Gonson and even laughed out loud at one point. If I didn’t know better, I’d have said he was having fun, which would have been appropriate because the audience certainly was.

The acoustic arrangements of all the songs were also gorgeous to behold. Many still equate the synth/drum machine aesthetic of the early records with classic Magnetic Fields, but those songs are so good that they really lost nothing when translated to acoustic guitar, cello, ukulele, piano and autoharp and I would go so far as to say they sounded even better. After all, my reservations about Realism had nothing to do with the sonics – it’s a gorgeous-sounding record – just the songwriting. And the set list did draw substantially from Realism – and I’ll admit the new stuff sounded better live and mixed in with the other material than it did collected and standalone – but the biggest treats (and gasps of surprise from the audience when introduced) were the old stuff.

With the depth of the Magnetic Fields/Stephin Merritt catalog, it would have been impossible to hear everything everyone would have wanted, but over two sets and almost two hours, they did a pretty good job of touching all the bases, from The Wayward Bus, through all of the Merge-era stuff including a half-dozen Love Songs and through the no-synths trilogy. All were great to hear, but for me the best moments came from having the 6ths material in the mix, including one of my all-time favourite songs in “Falling Out Of Love With You”. It was well-picked as the first set closer because it took me the 15-minute intermission to stop feeling giddy about it. If you were to ask me what my dream concert would be, the answer may well be to hear both 6ths records played live – with the original vocalists. As that’s an impossibility, this was a pretty good substitution. And as a concert, this was pretty well amazing. Stephin Merritt may not like to hit the road very often, but when he does – at least this time – he brought his A-game. One to remember.

The Toronto Star, The Varsity, The AV Club and Paste have interviews with Stephin Merritt.

Photos: The Magnetic Fields, Laura Barrett @ The Queen Elizabeth Theatre – February 8, 2010
MP3: The Magnetic Fields – “Everything Is One Big Christmas”
MP3: The Magnetic Fields – “The Book Of Love”
MP3: Laura Barrett – “Bluebird”
MP3: Laura Barrett – “Decepticon Island Optimists Club”
Video: The Magnetic Fields – “We Are Having A Hootenanny”
Video: The Magnetic Fields – “Born On A Train”
Video: Laura Barrett – “The Wood Between The Worlds”
MySpace: The Magnetic Fields

Download and savour the new MP3 from The Radio Dept.’s Clinging To A Scheme, finally coming on April 20. SAVOUR IT.

MP3: The Radio Dept. – “Heaven’s On Fire”

Black Cab Sessions takes Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater for a ride in exchange for a song and NPR is streaming their new album The Golden Archipelago right now, a couple weeks in advance of its February 23 release date. They’re at Lee’s Palace on April 1.

Stream: Shearwater / The Golden Archipelago

And some concert announcements – San Diegans The Soft Pack, whose self-titled debut is out now, will be at the El Mocambo on April 7 tickets $10 in advance. There’s so A/V materials to help your decision to attend and The Los Angeles Times has a brief interview.

MP3: The Soft Pack – “Answer To Yourself”
Video: The Soft Pack – “C’Mon”
Video: The Soft Pack – “Answer To Yourself”

Fanfarlo have finally scheduled a make-up date for their cancelled December appearance – they will make their Toronto debut on April 9 at Lee’s Palace. Keep an eye on those passports this time, fellas!

MP3: Fanfarlo – “Luna”
MP3: Fanfarlo – “Finish Line”

British post-punk legends Killing Joke bring the reunion to North America including a May 25 show at the Phoenix. The Quietus talks to Jaz and Youth about the reunion and their new album Feast Of Fools, due out in April

Video: Killing Joke – “Pandemonium”

Reported a couple weeks ago and then redacted for jumping the gun on the announcement, The National have added a second show at Massey Hall, this one on June 9. Tickets on sale this Friday at 10AM. No presale this time, so if you’re looking for tickets, get your clicking finger warmed up and do NOT use Firefox.

And cheers to Apple support for getting me my laptop back to me – fully repaired – not four days later as they’d estimated, but four hours. That’s the second time they’ve replaced a logic board in this computer in an afternoon. I’ll just be grateful and not question why the logic board would need to be replaced in the first place…

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Duck Duck Goose

Review of Woodpigeon’s Die Stadt Muzikanten

Photo By Wilkosz + WayWilkosz + WayUnder normal circumstances, it’d be logical to consider the record that followed a band’s breakthrough album through the lens of how those successes might have affected their creative process and output. You can’t quite do that in the case of Woodpigeon’s newest record Die Stadt Muzikanten, however, because even though its predecessor Treasury Library Canada was the album that brought the Calgary outfit national recognition via the Polaris Prize long list, Muzikanten was already completed and in the can before the Treasury roller coaster ride began.

That makes the growth in sound and style from one record to the next that much more natural. The basic Woodpigeon recipe hasn’t changed much – Mark Hamilton’s compositions continue to be exemplary folk-pop rendered with delicacy in a widescreen scale, but this time the songs are delivered with more confidence and verve than before and are simultaneously more musically rangy and focused. Relative to what’s come before, Muzikanten is both louder – “My Denial In Argyle” is an unqualified rocker while “The Street Noise That Gives You Away” is epic in scope – and softer, with record closer and Jamie Fooks duet “Our Love Is As Tall As The Calgary Tower” one of their loveliest moments to date. Though it’s Hamilton’s vision that defines Woodpigeon, the record wouldn’t be nearly what it is without the contributions of his ever-expanding cast of supporting players, whose ability to bring to life the sounds in his head can’t be overstated. In particular, the backing vocals of Annalea Sordi-McClure and Foon Yap are a persistent, angelic choir hovering overhead throughout. Much of the charm of Treasury came from how it felt like a perfectly-matched collection of individual, snowglobe-like vignettes – Muzikanten pulls all those vignettes together into a single wondrous diorama, alive with song.

CMJ, Log Driver’s Waltz, Spill, The Record and Xtra all have feature pieces on Woodpigeon, who kick off their tour of Ontario and Quebec this week. They play the Drake Underground this Thursday, February 11, and will do an in-store at Soundscapes on February 14 at 5PM. Die Stadt Muzikanten will be released in the US on March 9 and in Europe on April 19.

MP3: Woodpigeon – “Empty-Hall Sing-Along”
MySpace: Woodpigeon

Beatroute and Spill have features on Woodhands, who are playing the Opera House on March 11.

The Wooden Sky are profiled by Beatroute and The Manitoban. They’re at the Horseshoe on March 13 as part of the Chart showcase for Canadian Musicfest.

Southern Souls has posted a video session with Forest City Lovers, of which one of the songs is “If I Were A Tree” and thus continues the “wood” meme running through the first bit of this post. Hey, I make my own fun.

Beatroute and The Winnipeg Free Press talk to The Rural Alberta Advantage, who will be performing on March 13 at the Royal York Hotel as part of the Indie Awards at Canadian Musicfest. Yeah, the Indie Awards. That’s right.

Chart talks to Zeus, whose Say Us arrives February 23 and who will be at Lee’s Palace on March 10.

Spinner talks to Laura Barrett about how she found herself opening up for The Magnetic Fields on their current North American tour, which stops in at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre tonight.

Vue, Alive Sydney and The Gateway have feature pieces on Dan Mangan, who has two showcases (at least) at Canadian Musicfest this year – March 11 at The Great Hall and March 12 at The Courthouse.

Ottawa X-Press and Aux interview Basia Bulat. She has an in-store at Soundscapes on February 16 at 7PM.

The Montreal Gazette, The Globe & Mail and PopMatters have interviews with Owen Pallett, whose next hometown show is April 8 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Good news for those who were still in diapers the last time Thrush Hermit were an active band – a third reunion show has been added to go along with their two sold-out gigs at Lee’s Palace – there’s now a dry, all-ages matinee show scheduled for March 28 at 4:45PM – tickets are $17.50 and go on sale Wednesday. Joel Plaskett has also just announced details of a Thrush Hermit Complete Recordings box set coming out in time to coincide with the reunion tour and consisting of all of the band’s albums and EP as well as a wealth of rare and unreelased material and a DVD. Seven discs in all, and suitable for kids of all ages.

Sloan announced via Twitter that they will be releasing a digital compilation of all their official b-sides this week, aptly entitled B-Sides Win.

The Sadies give Exclaim a guided tour of their equipment.

NOW and The National Post pay tribute to Wavelength, whose weekly concert series wraps up for good this weekend with the 500th show blowouts.

Updates could be slim/intermittent/non-existent this week – woke up to a laptop with a DOA logic board, so until that gets fixed, I’ve got my work machine (which is for work – ahem), my iPhone and my 7-year old Windows machine which is going to be pressed back into emergency service. Sounds like fun, right? Right? Wrong.

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Some Party

Wavelength turns 500, goes out with a bang

Photo By Jeremy R. JansenJeremy R. JansenA birthday party is a bit of an odd time to announce a memorial, but such was the case this past February when, at the end of the successful 9th anniversary bash for Toronto’s venerable Wavelength weekly music series, it was announced that the 2010, 10th anniversary shows would also mark the final edition of the showcase… at least in its present form. While the weekly showcases are ending, the Wavelength marque and ethos will continue on via monthly showcases and one-off events, thus ensuring that the stages that gave countless Toronto acts – including Broken Social Scene, The Hidden Cameras and Constantines to name but a very few of the better known – will remain open and inviting.

But before the new Wavelength can begin, the old must be celebrated and put to bed, and that’s what the second weekend of February is going to be all about. Wavelength 500 will bring together acts from all throughout its history, some of whom have gone on to bigger things and some who have simply gone but all of whom are crucial parts of Toronto’s musical tapestry over the past decade. The festival will run over five nights at five venues, starting on February 10 and running through to February 14 for what’s sure to be the loudest, sweatiest Valentine’s Day bash on record. The lineups and locales for each night are as follows:

February 10 @ The Music Gallery: Bruce Peninsula, Evening Hymns, Pony Da Look, Deep Dark United, Canaille ($12)
February 11 @ The Steam Whistle Roundhouse – Holy Fuck, The Russian Futurists, Fembots, Diamond Rings, Professor Fingers ($18)
February 12 @ Sneaky Dee’s – From Fiction, The Bicycles, Laura Barrett, Magic Cheezies, Young Mother ($12)
February 13 @ The Polish Combatants Hall – Constantines, Rockets Red Glare, Donne Roberts, Picastro, Danger Bay ($20)
February 14 @ The Garrison – Kids On TV, Barcelona Pavilion, Mean Red Spiders, Neck, Boars (PWYC)

Advance tickets for the first four nights are available at the prices noted, while the fifth and final night will be pay-what-you-can. In addition, festival passes guaranteeing admission to all five shows will go on sale January 7 at the wholly reasonable price of $50. The timing of the festival is a bit unfortunate as there’s a lot a lot of other stuff going on before, during and after that weekend, but it’s not Wavelength’s fault – they’ve had this date circled on the calendar for, oh, a decade.

MP3: Laura Barrett – “Robot Ponies”
MP3: Bruce Peninsula – “Crabapples”
MP3: Canaille – “Vincent Massey” (live)
MP3: Constantines – “Nighttime Anytime It’s Alright”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “All Yr Songs”
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Dead Deer”
MP3: Fembots – “Good Days”
MP3: Holy Fuck – “Lovely Allen”
MP3: Picastro – “Hortur”
MP3: The Russian Futurists – “Paul Simon”

Constantines are no strangers to anniversary parties, having just wrapped up four Toronto shows to mark their own decade mark this past weekend. Spinner talked to frontman Bry Webb about the milestone.

Southern Souls is featuring a couple of video performances from Evening Hymns, who in addition to playing the Wavelength anniversary will be at the Garrison on January 22 for the Out Of This Spark 3rd anniversary show, alongside The D’Urbervilles, Forest City Lovers and Jenny Omnichord. Evening Hymns are also on HeroHill’s “best of 2009” list with a couple of unreleased tracks up for grabs and interviews with many of their picks.

Forest City Lovers frontwoman Kat Burns offers a couple of solo performances and an interview in this video feature from The National Post.

BlogTO has a feature on the Third Floor Sessions which have been happening at Ryerson University and yielding downloadable sessions from the likes of Ohbijou and The Wooden Sky… and yes, that is your cue to make with the clicky and download the goods (while watching the videos, of course).

NXEW is offering a free Christmas EP from Oh No Forest Fires that’s probably louder and fuzzier than your usual holiday fare. Thank goodness.

The Line Of Best Fit’s “Oh! Canada” series of compilations is also back with another volume, just in time for the holidays. Go get.